Welcome to the Talk Of The Week Club. I began this club as a way to share my love of learning and growing in the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My hope and desire is for you to learn and grow in your faith and love of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Each Thursday a new talk will be posted, come back, open your heart and mind, allow yourself to receive and I promise you will be spiritually fed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Week 32: Now Is The Time

On August 16, 2008, Stephanie & Christian Nielson were involved in a plane crash in Arizona. The news of this tragic accident struck something deep inside me because Stephanie and I went to high school together. I was overcome with the thoughts that these things just don’t happen to 27 year olds! They don’t happen to loving daughters of god, mothers with small children. These things just don’t happen to people I know! Today Stephanie lies in a hospital in Arizona recovering from very severe injuries and burns to 80% of her body, while her four small children ages 6 to 1 are being cared for by her family. What a very long recovery it will be! Stephanie made a career of being a wife and a mother; she was a wonderful Christ-like example, she lived each day to the fullest.

The events of the last two weeks have made me deeply ponder my life. My biggest flaw is that I am a procrastinator extraordinaire. I procrastinate EVERYTHING. I am always waiting for later, for tomorrow, or for the start of the next week. Tomorrow I will write that letter to my non-member friend; next week I will read my scriptures more diligently, next month I’ll stock up on food storage. For me it’s always another day. Interestingly, (and certainly inspired) in the week leading up to her accident Stephanie had a back to school feast for her daughters where she unveiled their family theme for the year “Be Prepared.” I have a resolve to be more prepared and to always remember to live for today for we do not know what tomorrow may bring. One of my favorite talks on the subject is entitled “Now is the Time” by President Thomas S. Monson from the October 2001 General Conference.
My hope is that throughout this week may we ask ourselves, “What are we doing with today?” and then do something…TODAY! : ) Alida

MP3 (MP3 version is taken from the August 2008 Ensign. The article "May We So Live" was based upon the conference talk below. The articles are very similar.)

May We So Live - Thomas S. Monson

Windows Media Player

“Now Is the Time”
Thomas S. Monson
Ensign, Nov 2001, 59
May we live so that when that final summons is heard, we may have no serious regrets, no unfinished business.

As I stand before you this morning, my thoughts return to the time of my youth when in Sunday School we often sang the lovely hymn:
Welcome, welcome, Sabbath morning; Now we rest from ev’ry care. Welcome, welcome, is thy dawning, Holy Sabbath, day of prayer. 1
This Sabbath day I pray for an interest in your faith and prayers as I respond to the invitation to address you.
All of us have been dramatically affected by the tragic events of that fateful day, September 11, 2001. Suddenly, without warning, devastating destruction left death in its wake and snuffed out the lives of enormous numbers of men, women, and children. Evaporated were well-laid plans for pleasant futures. Substituted, therefore, were tears of sorrow and cries of pain from wounded souls.
Countless are the reports we have heard during the past three and a half weeks of those who were touched in some way—either directly or indirectly—by the events of that day. I should like to share with you the comments of a Church member, Rebecca Sindar, who was on a flight from Salt Lake City to Dallas on the morning of Tuesday, September 11. The flight was interrupted, as were all flights in the air at the time of the tragedies, and the plane grounded in Amarillo, Texas. Sister Sindar reports: “We all left the plane and found televisions in the airport, where we crowded around to see the broadcast of what had happened. People were lined up to call loved ones to assure them we were safely on the ground. I shall always remember the 12 or so missionaries who were on their way to the mission field on our flight. They made phone calls, and then we saw them huddled in a circle in a corner of the airport, kneeling in prayer together. How I wish I could have captured that moment to share with the mothers and fathers of those sweet young men as they saw the need for prayer right away.”
My brothers and sisters, death eventually comes to all mankind. It comes to the aged as they walk on faltering feet. Its summons is heard by those who have scarcely reached midway in life’s journey, and often it hushes the laughter of little children. Death is one fact that no one can escape or deny.
Frequently death comes as an intruder. It is an enemy that suddenly appears in the midst of life’s feast, putting out its lights and gaiety. Death lays its heavy hand upon those dear to us and at times leaves us baffled and wondering. In certain situations, as in great suffering and illness, death comes as an angel of mercy. But for the most part, we think of it as the enemy of human happiness.
The darkness of death can ever be dispelled by the light of revealed truth. “I am the resurrection, and the life,” spoke the Master. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” 2
This reassurance—yes, even holy confirmation—of life beyond the grave could well provide the peace promised by the Savior when He assured His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 3
Out of the darkness and the horror of Calvary came the voice of the Lamb, saying, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” 4 And the dark was no longer dark, for He was with His Father. He had come from God, and to Him He had returned. So also those who walk with God in this earthly pilgrimage know from blessed experience that He will not abandon His children who trust in Him. In the night of death, His presence will be “better than [a] light and safer than a known way.” 5
Saul, on the road to Damascus, had a vision of the risen, exalted Christ. Later, as Paul, defender of truth and fearless missionary in the service of the Master, he bore witness of the risen Lord as he declared to the Saints at Corinth: “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
“… He was buried, and … he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
“… He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
“After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once. …
“After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
“And last of all he was seen of me.” 6
In our dispensation this same testimony was spoken boldly by the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he and Sidney Rigdon testified:
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” 7
This is the knowledge that sustains. This is the truth that comforts. This is the assurance that guides those bowed down with grief out of the shadows and into the light. It is available to all.
How fragile life, how certain death. We do not know when we will be required to leave this mortal existence. And so I ask, “What are we doing with today?” If we live only for tomorrow, we’ll have a lot of empty yesterdays today. Have we been guilty of declaring, “I’ve been thinking about making some course corrections in my life. I plan to take the first step—tomorrow”? With such thinking, tomorrow is forever. Such tomorrows rarely come unless we do something about them today. As the familiar hymn teaches:
There are chances for work all around just now, Opportunities right in our way. Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,” But go and do something today. 8
Let us ask ourselves the questions: “Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need?” What a formula for happiness! What a prescription for contentment, for inner peace—to have inspired gratitude in another human being.
Our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved.
As we remember that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God,” 9 we will not find ourselves in the unenviable position of Jacob Marley’s ghost, who spoke to Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol. Marley spoke sadly of opportunities lost. Said he: “Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunities misused! Yet such was I. Oh! such was I!”
Marley added: “Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”
Fortunately, as we know, Ebenezer Scrooge changed his life for the better. I love his line, “I am not the man I was.” 10
Why is the story A Christmas Carol so popular? Why is it ever new? I personally feel it is inspired of God. It brings out the best within human nature. It gives hope. It motivates change. We can turn from the paths which would lead us down and, with a song in our hearts, follow a star and walk toward the light. We can quicken our step, bolster our courage, and bask in the sunlight of truth. We can hear more clearly the laughter of little children. We can dry the tear of the weeping. We can comfort the dying by sharing the promise of eternal life. If we lift one weary hand which hangs down, if we bring peace to one struggling soul, if we give as did the Master, we can—by showing the way—become a guiding star for some lost mariner.
Because life is fragile and death inevitable, we must make the most of each day.
There are many ways in which we can misuse our opportunities. Some time ago I read a tender story written by Louise Dickinson Rich which vividly illustrates this truth. She wrote:
“My grandmother had an enemy named Mrs. Wilcox. Grandma and Mrs. Wilcox moved, as brides, into next-door houses on the main street of the tiny town in which they were to live out their lives. I don’t know what started the war between them—and I don’t think that by the time I came along, over thirty years later, they themselves remembered what started it. This was no polite sparring match; this was total war. …
“Nothing in town escaped repercussion. The 300-year-old church, which had lived through the Revolution, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, almost went down when Grandma and Mrs. Wilcox fought the Battle of the Ladies’ Aid. Grandma won that engagement, but it was a hollow victory. Mrs. Wilcox, since she couldn’t be president, resigned in a huff. What’s the fun of running a thing if you can’t force your enemy to eat crow? Mrs. Wilcox won the Battle of the Public Library by getting her niece, Gertrude, appointed librarian instead of Aunt Phyllis. The day Gertrude took over was the day Grandma stopped reading library books. They became ‘filthy germy things’ overnight. The Battle of the High School was a draw. The principal got a better job and left before Mrs. Wilcox succeeded in having him ousted or Grandma in having him given life tenure of office.
“When as children we visited my grandmother, part of the fun was making faces at Mrs. Wilcox’s grandchildren. One banner day we put a snake into the Wilcox rain barrel. My grandmother made token protests, but we sensed tacit sympathy.
“Don’t think for a minute that this was a one-sided campaign. Mrs. Wilcox had grandchildren, too. Grandma didn’t get off scot free. Never a windy washday went by that the clothesline didn’t mysteriously break, with the clothes falling in the dirt.
“I don’t know how Grandma could have borne her troubles so long if it hadn’t been for the household page of her daily Boston newspaper. This household page was a wonderful institution. Besides the usual cooking hints and cleaning advice, it had a department composed of letters from readers to each other. The idea was that if you had a problem—or even only some steam to blow off—you wrote a letter to the paper, signing some fancy name like Arbutus. That was Grandma’s pen name. Then some of the other ladies who had the same problem wrote back and told you what they had done about it, signing themselves One Who Knows or Xanthippe or whatever. Very often, the problem disposed of, you kept on for years writing to each other through the column of the paper, telling each other about your children and your canning and your new dining-room suite. That’s what happened to Grandma. She and a woman called Sea Gull corresponded for a quarter of a century. Sea Gull was Grandma’s true friend.
“When I was about sixteen, Mrs. Wilcox died. In a small town, no matter how much you have hated your next-door neighbor, it is only common decency to run over and see what practical service you can do the bereaved. Grandma, neat in a percale apron to show that she meant what she said about being put to work, crossed the lawn to the Wilcox house, where the Wilcox daughters set her to cleaning the already-immaculate front parlor for the funeral. And there on the parlor table in the place of honor was a huge scrapbook; and in the scrapbook, pasted neatly in parallel columns were Grandma’s letters to Sea Gull over the years and Sea Gull’s letters to her. Though neither woman had known it, Grandma’s worst enemy had been her [very] best friend. That was the only time I remember seeing my grandmother cry. I didn’t know then exactly what she was crying about, but I do now. She was crying for all the wasted years which could never be salvaged.”
My brothers and sisters, may we resolve from this day forward to fill our hearts with love. May we go the extra mile to include in our lives any who are lonely or downhearted or who are suffering in any way. May we “[cheer] up the sad and [make] someone feel glad.” 11 May we live so that when that final summons is heard, we may have no serious regrets, no unfinished business, but will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” 12 In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. Robert B. Baird, “Welcome, Welcome, Sabbath Morning,” Hymns, no. 280.

2. John 11:25–26.

3. John 14:27.

4. Luke 23:46.

5. Minnie Louise Haskins, “The Gate of the Year,” in Masterpieces of Religious Verse, ed. James Dalton Morrison (1948), 92.

6. 1 Cor. 15:3–8.

7. D&C 76:22–24.

8. Will L. Thompson, “Have I Done Any Good?” Hymns, no. 223.

9. Mosiah 2:17.

10. In Works of Charles Dickens (1982), 543, 581.

11. Hymns, no. 223.

12. 2 Tim. 4:7.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Week 31: To Young Women

I went to a wonderful fireside just for young women recently and Hank Smith was the speaker. He recommended that all the Young Women keep this talk by their bed side to read over and over. I decided to heed his recommendation and print a copy for me to read and have by my bedside. I love the tenderness with which Elder Holland speaks to us, the “young women” of the church. I love that he says, “Every young woman is a child of destiny and every adult woman a powerful force for good.” No matter how old we are in years we are still “children of destiny” and we can still be “powerful forces for good”. May this talk give you courage, comfort and steadfastness! Have a great week!

To Young Women - Jeffery R. Holland


To Young Women
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Be a woman of Christ. Cherish your esteemed place in the sight of God. He needs you. This Church needs you. The world needs you.

Father Time played a rude trick on me just a few months ago. I arose one morning all bright eyed and bushy tailed, greeted the dawn with a smile—only to realize suddenly that with the birthday to be celebrated that day I now had a teenage grandchild. I thought about it for a minute and then did what any responsible, dignified adult would do. I got back in bed and pulled the covers over my head.
Traditional joking aside about the harrowing experience of raising teenagers, I want to say to my own granddaughter and the vast majority of the youth of the Church whom I meet around the world how extraordinarily proud we are of you. Moral and physical danger exists almost everywhere around you and temptations of a dozen kinds present themselves daily, yet most of you strive to do what is right.
This afternoon I wish to raise my voice in praise of you, to express my love, my encouragement, and my admiration for you. Because this precious eldest grandchild of whom I spoke is a young woman, I am going to address my remarks to the young women of the Church, but I hope the spirit of what I say can apply to women and men of all ages. However today, as Maurice Chevalier used to sing, I want to "thank heaven for little girls."
First of all, I want you to be proud you are a woman. I want you to feel the reality of what that means, to know who you truly are. You are literally a spirit daughter of heavenly parents with a divine nature and an eternal destiny.1 That surpassing truth should be fixed deep in your soul and be fundamental to every decision you make as you grow into mature womanhood. There could never be a greater authentication of your dignity, your worth, your privileges, and your promise. Your Father in Heaven knows your name and knows your circumstance. He hears your prayers. He knows your hopes and dreams, including your fears and frustrations. And He knows what you can become through faith in Him. Because of this divine heritage you, along with all of your spiritual sisters and brothers, have full equality in His sight and are empowered through obedience to become a rightful heir in His eternal kingdom, an "[heir] of God, and joint-[heir] with Christ."2 Seek to comprehend the significance of these doctrines. Everything Christ taught He taught to women as well as men. Indeed, in the restored light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a woman, including a young woman, occupies a majesty all her own in the divine design of the Creator. You are, as Elder James E. Talmage once phrased it, "a sanctified investiture which none shall dare profane."3
Be a woman of Christ. Cherish your esteemed place in the sight of God. He needs you. This Church needs you. The world needs you. A woman's abiding trust in God and unfailing devotion to things of the Spirit have always been an anchor when the wind and the waves of life were fiercest.4 I say to you what the Prophet Joseph said more than 150 years ago: "If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates."5
All of this is to try to tell you how your Father in Heaven feels about you and what He has designed for you to become. And if for a time any of you are less visionary than this or seem bent on living beneath your privilege, then we express even greater love for you and plead with you to make your teenage years a triumph, not a tragedy. Fathers and mothers, prophets and apostles have no motive except to bless your life and to spare you every possible heartache we can spare you.
For you to fully claim Heavenly Father's blessings and protection, we ask you to stay true to the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ and not slavishly follow the whims of fads and fashions. The Church will never deny your moral agency regarding what you should wear and exactly how you should look. But the Church will always declare standards and will always teach principles. As Sister Susan Tanner taught this morning, one of those principles is modesty. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, modesty in appearance is always in fashion. Our standards are not socially negotiable.
The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is very clear in its call for young women to avoid clothing that is too tight, too short, or improperly revealing in any manner, including bare midriffs.6 Parents, please review this booklet with your children. Second only to your love, they need your limits. Young women, choose your clothing the way you would choose your friends—in both cases choose that which improves you and would give you confidence standing in the presence of God.7 Good friends would never embarrass you, demean you, or exploit you. Neither should your clothing.
I make a special appeal regarding how young women might dress for Church services and Sabbath worship. We used to speak of "best dress" or "Sunday dress," and maybe we should do so again. In any case, from ancient times to modern we have always been invited to present our best selves inside and out when entering the house of the Lord—and a dedicated LDS chapel is a "house of the Lord." Our clothing or footwear need never be expensive, indeed should not be expensive, but neither should it appear that we are on our way to the beach. When we come to worship the God and Father of us all and to partake of the sacrament symbolizing the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we should be as comely and respectful, as dignified and appropriate as we can be. We should be recognizable in appearance as well as in behavior that we truly are disciples of Christ, that in a spirit of worship we are meek and lowly of heart, that we truly desire the Savior's Spirit to be with us always.
In this same vein may I address an even more sensitive subject. I plead with you young women to please be more accepting of yourselves, including your body shape and style, with a little less longing to look like someone else. We are all different. Some are tall, and some are short. Some are round, and some are thin. And almost everyone at some time or other wants to be something they are not! But as one adviser to teenage girls said: "You can't live your life worrying that the world is staring at you. When you let people's opinions make you self-conscious you give away your power. . . . The key to feeling [confident] is to always listen to your inner self—[the real you.]"8 And in the kingdom of God, the real you is "more precious than rubies."9 Every young woman is a child of destiny and every adult woman a powerful force for good. I mention adult women because, sisters, you are our greatest examples and resource for these young women. And if you are obsessing over being a size 2, you won't be very surprised when your daughter or the Mia Maid in your class does the same and makes herself physically ill trying to accomplish it. We should all be as fit as we can be—that's good Word of Wisdom doctrine. That means eating right and exercising and helping our bodies function at their optimum strength. We could probably all do better in that regard. But I speak here of optimum health; there is no universal optimum size.
Frankly, the world has been brutal with you in this regard. You are bombarded in movies, television, fashion magazines, and advertisements with the message that looks are everything! The pitch is, "If your looks are good enough, your life will be glamorous and you will be happy and popular." That kind of pressure is immense in the teenage years, to say nothing of later womanhood. In too many cases too much is being done to the human body to meet just such a fictional (to say nothing of superficial) standard. As one Hollywood actress is reported to have said recently: "We’ve become obsessed with beauty and the fountain of youth. . . . I’m really saddened by the way women mutilate [themselves] in search of that. I see women [including young women] . . . pulling this up and tucking that back. It’s like a slippery slope. [You can't get off of it.] . . . It’s really insane . . . what society is doing to women."10
In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive, and it accounts for much of the unhappiness women, including young women, face in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called "vain imaginations."11 And in secular society both vanity and imagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us. Yet at the end of the day there would still be those "in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers" as Lehi saw,12 because however much one tries in the world of glamour and fashion, it will never be glamorous enough.
A woman not of our faith once wrote something to the effect that in her years of working with beautiful women she had seen several things they all had in common, and not one of them had anything to do with sizes and shapes. She said the loveliest women she had known had a glow of health, a warm personality, a love of learning, stability of character, and integrity. If we may add the sweet and gentle Spirit of the Lord carried by such a woman, then this describes the loveliness of women in any age or time, every element of which is emphasized in and attainable through the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
May I conclude. Much has been said lately in entertainment media about the current craze for "reality shows." I am not sure what those are, but from the bottom of my heart I share this gospel reality with the beautiful generation of young women growing up in this Church.
My solemn declaration to you is that the Father and the Son did in very fact appear to the Prophet Joseph Smith, himself a young man called by God from your very age group. I testify that these divine beings spoke to him, that he heard Their eternal voices, and he saw Their glorified bodies.13 That experience was as real in its own setting as the Apostle Thomas's was when the Savior said to him, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: . . . be not faithless, but [be] believing."14
To my granddaughter and to every other young person in this Church I bear my personal witness that God is in reality our Father and Jesus Christ is in reality His Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. I testify that this really is the Church and kingdom of God on earth, that true prophets have led this people in the past and a true prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, leads it now. May you know the unending love the leaders of the Church have for you and may you let the eternal realities of the gospel of Jesus Christ lift you above temporal concerns and teenage anxieties I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. See "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.2. Romans 8:17.3. James E. Talmage, "The Eternity of Sex," Young Woman's Journal, Oct. 1914, 602.4. See J. Reuben Clark, in Conference Report, Apr. 1940, 21 for a lengthy tribute to women of the Church.5. History of the Church, 4:605.6. For the Strength of Youth (pamphlet, 2001), 15.7. See D&C 121:45.8. Julia DeVillers, Teen People, Sept. 2005, 104.9. Proverbs 3:15.10. Halle Berry, quoted in "Halle Slams ‘Insane’ Plastic Surgery," This Is London, Aug. 2, 2004.11. 1 Nephi 12:18.12. See 1 Nephi 8:27. See Douglas Bassett, "Faces of Worldly Pride in the Book of Mormon," Ensign, Oct. 2000, 51, for an excellent discussion of this issue.13. See Joseph Smith—History 1:24–25.14. John 20:27.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Week 30: Cast Not Therefore Away Your Confidence

Sorry for the delay this week. I have had technical difficulties with my computer.

I loved this talk this week. I really am drawn in as Elder Holland explains the scriptures and how they relate to us. One of the big things I took away from this talk is the story of the Israelite's escape across the Red Sea and how at the waters edge they looked to each side and saw nothing but desert, looked forward to see nothing but water, and looked behind to see their enemies rushing toward them. During this time of entrapment they had forgotten the miracles they had witnessed in Egypt and cried saying, it would have been better to just become slaves then face the death that they believed would soon come upon them. I could think of times in my own life, recent times, that I have felt the same way. Just this week I was experiencing some of those feelings only to be reminded by this talk that sometimes it is when life is at it darkest, a miracle is just around the corner. Like the parting of the Red Sea for the Israelites, when we are following the promptings of the Lord He will deliver us, the light will shine upon us and the darkness will dispel immediately. Our responsibility is to never, never give up on the Lord because he will never, never, never give up on us.

Challenge of the week: Look for the miracles you have seen in your life and write them down in a special place for you to review when the darkness encircles you, reminding you that the Lord will shed His light and that your confidence should be in him.

MP3 Link

“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”
By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Ensign, Mar 2000, 7
From a devotional address given at Brigham Young University on 2 March 1999.

Beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now.
There is a lesson in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision which virtually every Latter-day Saint has had occasion to experience, or one day soon will. It is the plain and very sobering truth that before great moments, certainly before great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness. Life has some of those moments for us, and occasionally they come just as we are approaching an important decision or a significant step in our lives.
In that marvelous account which we read too seldom, Joseph said he had scarcely begun his prayer when he felt a power of astonishing influence come over him. “Thick darkness,” as he described it, gathered around him and seemed bent on his utter destruction. But he exerted all his powers to call upon God to deliver him out of the power of this enemy, and as he did so a pillar of light brighter than the noonday sun descended gradually until it rested upon him. At the very moment of the light’s appearance, he found himself delivered from the destructive power which had held him bound. What then followed is the greatest epiphany since the events surrounding the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ in the meridian of time. The Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith, and the dispensation of the fulness of times had begun. 1
Most of us do not need any more reminders than we have already had that there is one who personifies “opposition in all things,” that “an angel of God” fell “from heaven” and in so doing became “miserable forever.” What a chilling destiny! Because this is Lucifer’s fate, “he sought also the misery of all mankind,” Lehi teaches us. 2
The Fight Goes On
An entire article could be devoted to this subject of the adversary’s strong, preliminary, anticipatory opposition to many of the good things God has in store for us. But I want to move past that observation to another truth we may not recognize so readily. This is a lesson in the parlance of the athletic contest that reminds us “it isn’t over until it’s over.” It is the reminder that the fight goes on. Unfortunately we must not think Satan is defeated with that first strong breakthrough which so dramatically brought the light and moved us forward.
To make my point a little more vividly, may I go to another passage of scripture, indeed, to another vision. You will recall that the book of Moses begins with him being taken up to “an exceedingly high mountain” where, the scripture says, “he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses.” What then followed was what happens to prophets who are taken to high mountains. The Lord said to Moses:
“Look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands. … Moses looked, and … beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God. And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not.” 3
This experience is remarkable by every standard. It is one of the great revelations given in human history. It stands with the greatest accounts we have of any prophet’s experience with Divinity.
But Moses’ message to you today is: Don’t let your guard down. Don’t assume that a great revelation, some marvelous, illuminating moment, the opening of an inspired path, is the end of it. Remember, it isn’t over until it’s over.
What happens to Moses next, after his revelatory moment, would be ludicrous if it were not so dangerous and so true to form. Lucifer—in an effort to continue his opposition, in his unfailing effort to get his licks in later if not sooner—appears and shouts in equal portions of anger and petulance after God has revealed Himself to the prophet: “Moses, worship me.” But Moses is not having it. He has just seen the real thing, and by comparison this sort of performance is pretty dismal.
“Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? … Where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?
“For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me. … But I can look upon thee in the natural man. …
“Where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God. …
“Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not.”
The record then depicts a reaction that is both pathetic and frightening:
“And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.
“And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God [the very phrase used by Joseph Smith], he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.
“And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook. …
“And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence,” 4 always to come again, we can be sure, but always to be defeated by the God of glory—always.
Do Not Draw Back
I wish to encourage every one of us regarding the opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelation and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose. In his letter to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul was trying to encourage new members who had just joined the Church, who undoubtedly had had spiritual experiences and received the pure light of testimony, only to discover that their troubles had not ended but that some of them had just begun.
Paul pleaded with those new members in much the same way President Gordon B. Hinckley is pleading with new members today. The reminder is that we cannot sign on for a battle of such eternal significance and everlasting consequence without knowing it will be a fight—a good fight and a winning fight, but a fight nevertheless. Paul says to those who thought a new testimony, a personal conversion, a spiritual baptismal experience would put them beyond trouble—to these he says, “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” Then this tremendous counsel, which is at the heart of my counsel to you: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. …
“… If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
“… We are not of them who draw back unto perdition.” 5
In Latter-day Saint talk that is to say, Sure it is tough—before you join the Church, while you are trying to join, and after you have joined. That is the way it has always been, Paul says, but don’t draw back. Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience you had. That tenacity is what saved Moses and Joseph Smith when the adversary confronted them, and it is what will save you.
I suppose every returned missionary and probably every convert reading these words knows exactly what I am talking about. Appointments for discussions canceled, the Book of Mormon in a plastic bag hanging from a front doorknob, baptismal dates not met. And so it goes through the teaching period, through the commitments and the baptism, through the first weeks and months in the Church, and more or less forever—at least, the adversary would pursue it forever if he thought he could see any weakening of your resolve, any chink in your armor.
This opposition turns up almost any place something good has happened. It can happen when you are trying to get an education. It can hit you after your first month in your new mission field. It certainly happens in matters of love and marriage. It can occur in situations related to your family, Church callings, or career.
With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.
The Spirit of Revelation
To help us make our way through these experiences, these important junctures in our lives, let me draw from another scriptural reference to Moses. It was given in the early days of this dispensation when revelation was needed, when a true course was being set and had to be continued.
Most Latter-day Saints know the formula for revelation given in section 9 of the Doctrine and Covenants—the verses about studying it out in your mind and the Lord promising to confirm or deny. What most of us don’t read in conjunction with this is the section which precedes it: section 8.
In that revelation the Lord has said, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” I love the combination there of both mind and heart. God will teach us in a reasonable way and in a revelatory way—mind and heart combined—by the Holy Ghost. “Now, behold,” He continues, “this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.” 6
Why would the Lord use the example of crossing the Red Sea as the classic example of “the spirit of revelation”? Why didn’t He use the First Vision? Or the example from the book of Moses we just used? Or the vision of the brother of Jared? Well, He could have used any of these, but He didn’t. Here He had another purpose in mind.
Usually we think of revelation as a downpour of information. But this is too narrow a concept of revelation. May I suggest how section 8 broadens our understanding, particularly in light of these “fights of affliction” we have been discussing.
Questions Often Precede Revelation
First of all, revelation almost always comes in response to a question, usually an urgent question—not always, but usually. In that sense it does provide information, but it is urgently needed information, special information. Moses’ challenge was how to get himself and the children of Israel out of this horrible predicament they were in. There were chariots behind them, sand dunes on every side, and a lot of water immediately ahead. He needed information to know what to do, but it wasn’t a casual thing he was asking. In this case it was literally a matter of life and death.
You will need information too, but in matters of great consequence it is not likely to come unless you want it urgently, faithfully, humbly. Moroni calls it seeking “with real intent.” 7 If you can seek that way and stay in that mode, not much that the adversary can counter with will dissuade you from a righteous path. You can hang on, whatever the assault and affliction, because you have paid the price for real conviction.
Like Moses in that vision, there may come after the fact some competing doubts and confusion, but it will pale when you measure it against the real thing. Remember the real thing. Remember how urgently you have needed help in earlier times and you got it. The Red Sea will open to the honest seeker of revelation. The adversary has power to hedge up the way, to marshal Pharaoh’s forces and dog our escape right to the water’s edge, but he can’t produce the real thing. He cannot conquer if we will it otherwise. Exerting all our powers, the light will again come, the darkness will again retreat, the safety will be sure. That is lesson number one about crossing the Red Sea by the spirit of revelation.
Do Not Fear
Lesson number two is closely related. It is that in the process of revelation and making important decisions, fear plays a destructive, sometimes paralyzing role. To Oliver Cowdery, who missed the opportunity of a lifetime because he didn’t seize it in the lifetime of the opportunity, the Lord said, “You did not continue as you commenced.” Does that sound familiar to those who have been illuminated and then knuckled under to second thoughts and returning doubts? “It is not expedient that you should translate now,” the Lord said in language that must have been very hard for Oliver to hear. “Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now.” 8
Everyone runs the risk of fear. For a moment in Moses’ confrontation with the adversary, “Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell.” 9 That’s when you see it—when you are afraid.
That is exactly the problem that beset the children of Israel at the edge of the Red Sea, and it has everything to do with holding fast to your earlier illumination. The record says, “And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid.” Some (just like those Paul described earlier) said words to this effect: “Let’s go back. This isn’t worth it. We must have been wrong. That probably wasn’t the right spirit telling us to leave Egypt.” What they actually said to Moses was: “Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? … It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” 10 And I have to say, “What about that which has already happened? What about the miracles that got you here? What about the frogs and the lice? What about the rod and the serpent, the river and the blood? What about the hail, the locusts, the fire, the firstborn sons?”
How soon we forget. It would not have been better to stay and serve the Egyptians, and it is not better to remain outside the Church, nor to put off marriage, nor to reject a mission call or other Church service, and so on and so on forever. Of course our faith will be tested as we fight through these self-doubts and second thoughts. Some days we will be miraculously led out of Egypt—seemingly free, seemingly on our way—only to come to yet another confrontation, like all that water lying before us. At those times we must resist the temptation to panic and give up. At those times fear will be the strongest of the adversary’s weapons against us.
“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. … The Lord shall fight for you.” In confirmation the great Jehovah said to Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” 11
That is the second lesson of the spirit of revelation. After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel His love and hear the word of the Lord, go forward. Don’t fear, don’t vacillate, don’t quibble, don’t whine. You may, like Alma going to Ammonihah, have to find a route that leads an unusual way, but that is exactly what the Lord is doing here for the children of Israel. Nobody had ever crossed the Red Sea this way, but so what? There’s always a first time. With the spirit of revelation, dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet. In the words of Joseph Smith, “Brethren [and sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” 12
God Will Help Us
The third lesson from the Lord’s spirit of revelation in the miracle of crossing the Red Sea is that along with the illuminating revelation that points us toward a righteous purpose or duty, God will also provide the means and power to achieve that purpose. Trust in that eternal truth. If God has told you something is right, if something is indeed true for you, He will provide the way for you to accomplish it. That is true of joining the Church or raising a family, of going on a mission, or any one of a hundred other worthy tasks in life. Remember what the Savior said to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. What was the problem in 1820? Why was Joseph not to join another church? It was at least in part because “they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” 13 God’s grace is sufficient! The Lord would tell Joseph again and again that just as in days of old the children of Israel would be “led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. … Therefore, let not your hearts faint. … Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.” 14
What goodly land? Well, your goodly land. Your promised land. Your new Jerusalem. Your own little acre flowing with milk and honey. Your future. Your dreams. Your destiny. I believe that in our own individual ways, God takes us to the grove or the mountain or the temple and there shows us the wonder of what His plan is for us. We may not see it as fully as Moses or Nephi or the brother of Jared did, but we see as much as we need to see in order to know the Lord’s will for us and to know that He loves us beyond mortal comprehension. I also believe that the adversary and his pinched, calculating little minions try to oppose such experiences and then try to darken them after they happen. But that is not the way of the gospel. That is not the way of a Latter-day Saint who claims as the fundamental fact of the Restoration the spirit of revelation. Fighting through darkness and despair and pleading for the light is what opened this dispensation. It is what keeps it going, and it is what will keep you going. With Paul, I say to all of you:
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” 15
I acknowledge the reality of opposition and adversity, but I bear witness of the God of glory, of the redeeming Son of God, of light and hope and a bright future. I promise you that God lives and loves you, each one of you, and that He has set bounds and limits to the opposing powers of darkness. I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the victor over death and hell and the fallen one who schemes there. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and it has been restored.
“Fear ye not.” And when the second and third and fourth blows come, “fear ye not. … The Lord shall fight for you.” 16 Cast not away therefore your confidence.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Week 29: The Law of Sacrifice

I've been thinking about sacrifice for a few weeks now. I was wondering why it is that when I have done somethings that required sacrifice I still failed or the out come was one that was not expected. Elder M. Russell Ballard taught, "The word sacrifice means literally 'to make sacred'".
As I have studied sacrifice, what it means, what sacrifices I offer and have offered I learned an amazing truth. Our failures can lead us to some of the most sacred sacrifices we will ever make. The reason for this I believe is that sometimes it is through our failures that we see that it is not our will but the Lord's and the sacrifice comes when we submit to His will.

It is important to note that each of us is asked to sacrifice things on a personal level, so we can come to know the Lord and ourselves. Because sacrifices are so personal it is not for us to judge the sacrifices of others or compare their sacrifices to our own. "The world will judge you mainly by outcomes, not by effort. Unlike God, humans posses no window to the soul. We are not privy to the obstacles each person must overcome nor to each person's unique portion of talents." "Remember that he who looks not on the countenance but on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)sees beyond your resume. He sees your soul. He knows your sacrifices and they are sacred to him" (John S. Tanner. "On Sacrifice and Success," BYU Magazine, Fall 2003, 4)

For a challenge this week might I suggest that you take a moment to ponder your sacrifices and what they have taught you about yourself and the Lord, Jesus Christ. If you have troubles seeing them pray to be shown and you will see very clearly how simple and sacred they truly are.

MP3 Link

The Twentieth Annual Church Educational System Religious Educators Symposium
The Law of Sacrifice
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
CES Symposium on the New Testament • 13 August 1996 • Brigham Young University

Last year my family and I visited Palmyra, Kirtland, and Nauvoo. We reviewed the early history of the Church on that trip and were reminded of the overwhelming sacrifices the founders of the Church made to establish the kingdom of God on earth in this last dispensation.
The Law of Sacrifice Is Eternal
Reflecting upon our Church history has focused my mind on the eternal nature of the law of sacrifice, which is a vital part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was practiced in Old Testament, New Testament, and Book of Mormon times. As the course of study this year, the New Testament describes a time when the law of sacrifice was practiced in two different ways. In the first half of the New Testament it was practiced as outlined in the law of Moses. Then, through the Atonement of Christ, the law of Moses was fulfilled and the practice of the law of sacrifice changed. For this reason it would be helpful for students to understand how the law of sacrifice was practiced before and after the Atonement.
Usually, the first thing people think of when they hear “law of Moses” is animal sacrifice. The somewhat gruesome nature of blood sacrifice has led some people to ask, “How could such an activity have anything to do with the gospel of love?”
The Purpose of the Law of Sacrifice
There are two major, eternal purposes for the law of sacrifice that we need to understand. These purposes applied to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and the New Testament Apostles, and they apply to us today as we accept and live the law of sacrifice. The two major purposes are to test and prove us and to assist us in coming unto Christ.
To Test, Try, and Prove Us
The first purpose of the law of sacrifice is described by President Lorenzo Snow: “The trials and temptations have been very great to many of our people, and more or less, perhaps, to all of us. The Lord seems to require some proof on our part, something to show that He can depend upon us when He wants us to accomplish certain things in His interest” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1900, 2).
Throughout history we learn of many righteous people who suffered trials and tribulations as a result of trying to serve the Lord Jesus Christ: Abel, Noah, Abraham, Job, Lehi, Nephi, Abinadi, Stephen, Peter, Paul, Mormon, Moroni, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Roger Williams, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and a host of others. One writer said it this way: “We see that every age has been a time of stress, war, conflict, and struggle. . . . Men have been continually tempted and pressed to make decisions about their loyalty to their religious beliefs; they have been repeatedly forced to examine their relationship to their Father in heaven—and, in fact, they have been tested again and again and again” (Victor B. Cline, “‘Handcart Pioneers’ Through the Ages,” Instructor, Feb. 1967, 90).
The Lord himself spoke of proving and trying us:
“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 98:14–15; emphasis added).
In describing his life of trials, the Prophet Joseph said: “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force, . . . knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 304).
The law of sacrifice also provides an opportunity for us to prove to the Lord that we love him more than any other thing. As a result, the course sometimes becomes difficult, but understandably so, since this is the process of perfection that prepares us for the celestial kingdom to “dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever” (D&C 76:62). How important it is for full‑time missionaries to understand this principle before serving the Lord on their missions. Obedience to mission guidelines would automatically be part of every missionary’s life if the law of sacrifice was correctly understood.
To Assist Us in Coming unto Christ
Now let us turn to the second purpose of the law of sacrifice, that of coming unto Christ. President Ezra Taft Benson explained that “the sacred mission of the Church . . . [is] to ‘invite all to come unto Christ’ (D&C 20:59)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 97; or Ensign, May 1988, 84; see also Moroni 10:32). The law of sacrifice has always been a means for God’s children to come unto the Lord Jesus Christ.
No one will ever accept the Savior without having faith in him first. Hence, the first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained an important relationship between the principle of faith and the principle of sacrifice. He said:
“Let us here observe, that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God. . . .
“First, the idea that he actually exists.
“Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.
“Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 38).
Joseph then explained: “Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. . . . 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. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life” (Lectures on Faith, 69).
Let me summarize: To have faith and come unto Christ we must know that God exists, have a correct understanding of God, know what we do is pleasing before God, and understand that this knowledge comes to us through sacrifice and obedience. To those who come unto Christ in this way comes a confidence that whispers peace to their souls and that will eventually enable them to lay hold on eternal life.
Sacrifice allows us to learn something about ourselves—what we are willing to offer to the Lord through our obedience.
To illustrate, Truman G. Madsen tells about a visit he made to Israel with President Hugh B. Brown. As they approached a valley known as Hebron, where tradition has it that there is a tomb of father Abraham, Brother Madsen asked President Brown, “What are the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?” After a short moment of thought, Elder Brown answered, “Posterity.”
Brother Madsen concluded: “I almost burst out, ‘Why, then, was Abraham commanded to go to Mount Moriah and offer his only hope of posterity?’
“It was clear that this man [President Brown], nearly ninety, had thought and prayed and wept over that question before. He finally said, ‘Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham’” (Truman G. Madsen, The Highest in Us [1978], 49).
Now let’s look at another way that the law of sacrifice brought people unto Christ. Anciently, through blood sacrifices, the law of sacrifice brought people to Christ through typifying and foreshadowing his life and mission.
Adam was taught that sacrifice was done as a “similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father” (Moses 5:7). This teaches us that originally ancient Israel understood the relationship between the sacrifice of their offerings and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God (see D&C 138:12–13).
It is within the Book of Mormon that we find the clearest doctrinal teachings about the purpose of the law of sacrifice as practiced in the law of Moses. Nephi taught that sacrifice was done in remembrance of Christ (see 2 Nephi 11:4). He also stated:
“We keep the law of Moses and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ. . . .
“For, for this end was the law given” (2 Nephi 25:24–25).
Amulek testified that Christ’s ultimate sacrifice was “the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice” (Alma 34:14).
In Alma we read:
“They did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming. . . .
“. . . The law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ” (Alma 25:15–16).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Whenever the Lord revealed Himself to men in ancient days, and commanded them to offer sacrifice to Him, that it was done that they might look forward in faith to the time of His coming, and rely upon the power of that atonement for a remission of their sins” (Teachings, 60–61; see also p. 58).
Brothers and sisters, notice how the following story told by President Gordon B. Hinckley illustrates how the law of sacrifice both tests us and brings us to Christ.
Most members of the Church are familiar with the tragic experience of the Martin and Willie handcart companies who, in 1856, ran out of food and became stranded in the early snows of Wyoming. “Over two hundred members of the two ill‑fated handcart companies were buried in frozen graves before they could reach Zion. More people died in these two companies than in any other immigrant group in the United States” (Church History in the Fulness of Times [1989], 361).
Less familiar to the Church is the testimony born years later by Francis Webster, one of the members of the Martin handcart company. President Hinckley read from a manuscript he had that told what happened years later at a meeting in Cedar City, Utah, where some members were criticizing Church leaders for the tragedies and the loss of life connected with the two companies:
“One old man in the corner sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it. Then he arose and said, . . .
“. . . ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. . . . I was in that company and my wife was in it. . . . 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? . . . Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with him in our extremities’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 77; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 54; emphasis added).
Can you see, brothers and sisters, how their sacrifices both tested them and brought them unto Christ? President Hinckley continued and said, “We must rise above our love for comfort and ease, and in the very process of effort and struggle, even in our extremity, we shall become better acquainted with our God” (in Conference Report, 78; or Ensign, 59).
President Spencer W. Kimball explained this to a young man who was struggling with his testimony. He told my friend, “Through sacrifice and service one comes to know the Lord.” As we sacrifice our selfish desires, serve our God and others, we become more like him. Elder Russell M. Nelson taught:
“We are still commanded to sacrifice, but not by shedding blood of animals. Our highest sense of sacrifice is achieved as we make ourselves more sacred or holy.
“This we do by our obedience to the commandments of God. Thus, the laws of obedience and sacrifice are indelibly intertwined. . . . As we comply with these and other commandments, something wonderful happens to us. . . . We become more sacred and holy—[more] like our Lord!” (“Lessons from Eve,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 88).
It is interesting to note that the word sacrifice means literally “to make sacred” or “to render sacred.”
As we sacrifice more and more, we will come to better understand the life of Jesus Christ, who is the perfect example of sacrifice. Elder Franklin D. Richards taught: “Jesus’ life was the perfect example of dedication and sacrifice. He had no silver or gold to give, but he gave faith to his disciples, health to the sick, . . . hope to the discouraged” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1967, 76; or Improvement Era, June 1967, 70), and his life for all.
The purposes of the law of sacrifice are eternal. The ways it has been practiced, however, have varied according to the Lord’s will.
The Law of Sacrifice in the Premortal Life
Our first lessons about the law of sacrifice, along with an understanding of all gospel principles, began in our premortal life. In the premortal world we were taught the fulness of the gospel and the plan of salvation (see D&C 138:56). We knew of the Savior’s mission, of his future atoning sacrifice, and we willingly sustained him as our Savior and our Redeemer. In fact we learn from Revelation 12:11 that it is by “the blood of the Lamb” (Christ’s atoning sacrifice) and our testimony that we are able to overcome Satan. President Joseph F. Smith explained: “The Lord designed in the beginning to place before man the knowledge of good and evil, and gave him a commandment to cleave to good and abstain from evil. But if he should fail, he would give to him the law of sacrifice and provide a Savior for him, that he might be brought back again into the presence and favor of God and partake of eternal life with him. This was the plan of redemption chosen and instituted by the Almighty before man was placed on the earth” (Gospel Doctrine [1939], 202).
The Law of Sacrifice from Adam to the Prophet Moses
Adam and Eve were given the law of sacrifice and commanded to practice it by giving offerings. These included two emblems: the firstlings of the flock and the first fruits of the field. They obeyed without questioning (see Moses 5:5–6). President David O. McKay explained, “The effect of this [law] was that the best the earth produced, the best specimen in the flock or herd should not be used for self, but for God” (“The Atonement,” Instructor, Mar. 1959, 66). At a time in history when just making sure your family had food, those who sought to worship the Lord were asked to sacrifice the best part of their source of life. It was a real test of Adam and Eve’s faith, and they obeyed.
Likewise, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the holy prophets from Adam to Moses offered the Lord sacrifices in a similar way.
The Law of Sacrifice from Moses to the End of Christ’s Life
Due to the rebellious nature of the children of Israel in the days of Moses, the law of sacrifice changed and became a strict law requiring a daily practice of performances and ordinances. From Adam’s day to Moses’, there was just one kind of sacrifice offered. During the time of Moses there was an expansion in the number and variety of offerings under the law of sacrifice.
A detailed explanation of the varieties and degrees of sacrifices is far less important than understanding their purpose. The real value in understanding these offerings is that by so doing we learn more about Jesus Christ, his infinite atoning sacrifice, and what we must do to come unto him.
The Mosaic sacrifices consisted of five major offerings that fell into two primary categories, namely obligatory and voluntary. The difference between the obligatory and the voluntary offerings might be compared with the law of tithing and with the law of fast offerings. To save time tonight I will not go into the detail of these sacrifices, but some charts explaining them will accompany the text of this talk and will be made available to you later.
While there were many different offerings, one thing remained the same in all of them. Everything about Mosaic sacrifice focused on Christ. Like Christ, the priest acted as the mediator between the people and their God. Like Christ, the priest had to have the right parentage to officiate in his office. Like Christ, the offerer through obedience willingly sacrificed what was required by the law. The part of sacrifice that most strongly paralleled the Savior was the offering itself. Notice with me some of these parallels.
First, like Christ, the animal was chosen and anointed by the laying on of hands. As you are aware, the Hebrew name Messiah and the Greek name Christ both mean “the Anointed One.” Second, the animal spilt its life’s blood. Third, it had to be without blemish—totally free from physical flaws, complete, whole, and perfect. Fourth, the sacrifice had to be clean and worthy. Fifth, the sacrifice had to be domesticated, that is, not wild but tame and of help to man (see Leviticus 1:2–3, 10; 22:21; Numbers 15:3). Sixth and seventh, for the original sacrifice practiced by Adam and the most common sacrifice in the law of Moses, the animal had to be a firstborn and a male (see Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 1:3; 22:18–25). Eighth, the sacrifice of grain had to be ground into flour and made into breadstuffs, which reminds us of our Lord’s title the Bread of Life (see John 6:48). Ninth, the firstfruits that were offered remind us that Christ was the firstfruits of the Resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:20).
The Savior truly was the focus and purpose of each sacrifice.
The Law of Sacrifice in the New Testament and a Fulfillment of the Law of Moses
Help your students understand that the law of sacrifice and the system of offerings as given to Moses continued to be practiced in New Testament times. Since Jesus Christ of the New Testament was Jehovah of the Old Testament, it is he who gave the law of Moses in the first place. It would seem only appropriate then that he would be the one with authority to fulfill that law.
Jehovah in Old Testament times knew the details of his future atoning sacrifice and, therefore, prescribed elements of the law of Moses that would specifically point to it. Then with his final words, “It is finished” (John 19:30), the Lord pronounced the fulfillment of the law of Moses. Amulek spoke of the fulfillment of the law in this way:
“Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be . . . a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled. . . .
“And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal” (Alma 34:13–14).
I stand as a special witness today of this most singular event of all time. I testify in a unique way of the far-reaching effects of this most holy of all offerings. In a future day of another life when our finite reasoning will be expanded, we will more fully understand the penetrating powers of the Atonement and feel moved even more with gratitude, admiration, worship, and love toward our Savior in ways not possible in this present state.
At the fulfillment of the law of Moses, the Lord changed the practice of the law of sacrifice. To change a law that had been practiced for centuries served as a means to further emphasize the importance of the Atonement. Prior to the Atonement, blood sacrifice pointed forward to his sacrifice; after the Atonement the sacrament points minds back to the Atonement.
Help your students understand that the law of Moses is not the same thing as the law of sacrifice. Although the law of Moses was fulfilled, the principles of the law of sacrifice continue to be a part of the doctrine of the Church.
While the primary purpose of the law of sacrifice continued to be that of testing and assisting us to come unto Christ, two adjustments were made after Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. First, the ordinance of the sacrament replaced the ordinance of sacrifice; and second, this change moved the focus of the sacrifice from a person’s animal to the person himself. In a sense, the sacrifice changed from the offering to the offerer.
Sacrifice versus Sacrament
As we contemplate the replacing of animal sacrifice with the sacrament, we cannot help but notice a strong relationship between the two. Both sacrifice and sacrament:
• Are affected by a person’s attitude and worthiness (see Amos 5:21–22; 3 Nephi 18:27–29; Moroni 7:6–7).
• Were designed to be performed by priests officiating in the Aaronic Priesthood (see D&C 13:1; 20:46).
• Focus on Christ (see Luke 22:19–20; Alma 34:13–14).
• Contain emblems that represent Christ’s flesh and blood (see Luke 22:19–20; Moses 5:7).
• Provide a means whereby one can make and renew covenants to God (see Leviticus 22:21; D&C 20:77–79).
• Are performed regularly on the Sabbath as well as on other special occasions (see Leviticus 23:15; D&C 59:9–13).
• Are associated with meals that symbolically partake of the Atonement (see Leviticus 7:18; Matthew 26:26).
• Share the distinction that they’re the only saving ordinance in which members participate for themselves more than once.
• Provide an important step in the process of repentance (see Leviticus 19:22; 3 Nephi 18:11; Moses 5:8).
President Joseph F. Smith compared the purpose of the sacrament with ancient sacrifice when he said that the purpose of the sacrament “is that we may keep in mind continually the Son of God who has redeemed us from eternal death, and brought us to life again through the power of the gospel. Before the coming of Christ to the earth, this was borne in mind . . . by another ordinance [blood sacrifice] which was a type of the great sacrifice that should take place in the meridian of time” (Gospel Doctrine, 103).
The Sacrifice of Ourselves Instead of Our Animals
Now let us discuss the second effect resulting from the change Christ made in the law of sacrifice when he fulfilled the law of Moses. After his mortal ministry, Christ elevated the law of sacrifice to a new level. In describing how the law of sacrifice would continue, Jesus told his Nephite Apostles that he would no longer accept burnt offerings, but that his disciples should offer “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19–20; see also D&C 59:8, 12). Instead of the Lord requiring a person’s animal or grain, now the Lord wants us to give up all that is ungodly. This is a higher practice of the law of sacrifice; it reaches into the inner soul of a person. Elder Neal A. Maxwell described it this way: “Real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 91; or Ensign, May 1995, 68).
How is it that we show the Lord that we have symbolically put ourselves upon today’s sacrificial altar? We show the Lord we are willing to live the law of sacrifice today by living the first great commandment. Jesus said:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38).
When we overcome our own selfish desires and put God first in our lives and covenant to serve him regardless of the cost, then we are living the law of sacrifice. One of the best ways to keep the first great commandment is to keep the second great commandment. The Master himself taught that “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40) and that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). Sacrifice is a demonstration of pure love. The degree of our love for the Lord and for our fellowman can be measured by what we are willing to sacrifice for them.
Sometimes the most effective way to teach a principle is to give an example of its use in practice. Let me share a few examples of how some have successfully lived the law of sacrifice in their lives.
Henry Ballard
At the time of the Restoration of the Church, sacrifice was a common part of life for those who believed the truth. Sacrifices made by our pioneer forefathers to establish the Church in the western United States have become legendary. One such example that I have spoken of before is my great‑grandfather, Henry Ballard, the father of Melvin J. Ballard. Of the many pioneer stories in our Church, I have found none that are any more significant than those within my own family.
Henry was born 27 January 1832 in England. His parents “were poor, but honorable people” (Douglas O. Crookston, Henry Ballard [1994], 2). Henry was the youngest of four sons. At the age of seventeen Henry was taught the gospel and baptized by Joseph Kimber.
During the Black Plague epidemic of 1849, Henry became deathly sick. For days he laid in bed. Although his parents ignored his request of calling for the elders for a blessing, eventually they did come; through the power of a priesthood blessing, Henry was healed. The healing was of such a miraculous nature that his father and mother were converted and baptized shortly thereafter.
Henry’s determination to serve the Lord resulted in him and his parents going to Zion. On 10 January 1852 Henry sailed from Liverpool in advance of his parents. The voyage across the ocean took sixty‑three days and was described as “a long and rough one.”
At the mouth of the Mississippi River, they boarded a steamboat called the Saluda along with eighty other Saints and traveled up the river to Council Bluffs. After many more delays, Henry described what happened one morning as he was eating breakfast: “The Boilers [of the Saluda] burst blowing away about half the boat taking away the fore part of it[;] killed and wounded about fifty of the Saints[.] . . . I was blown about two rods [thirty‑two feet]. . . . I was Stuned and made senseless for about half an hour with a hole cut in my head near the brain[.]” Henry lost all of his belongings in the accident. He continued his journey with what he described as “what I had upon my back and another Shirt and one sock with no hat on my head and no money” (in Crookston, Henry Ballard, 11–12).
In order to pay for his voyage to America, Henry contracted his service for the next two years to a company owned by Lorenzo and Erastus Snow. He was hired to drive a herd of sheep west to the Salt Lake Valley. Henry described his entrance into the valley in the following words: “In October as I drove the sheep down little mountain and through the mouth of Emigration Canyon, I first beheld the Salt Lake Valley. While I rejoiced in viewing the ‘Promised Land,’ I lived in fear that some one might see me. I hid myself behind bushes all day until after dark for the rags I had on did not cover my body and I was ashamed to be thus exposed. After dark I crossed over the field to a house where a light was shining, near the mouth of the canyon, and timidly knocked on the door. Fortunately, a man answered the door and the candle light did not expose me to the view of the other members of his household. I begged for clothes to cover my naked body. . . . I was given some clothing and the next day continued my journey . . . feeling very thankful to God” (in Crookston, Henry Ballard, 14–15).
Margaret McNeil Ballard
Another example of pioneer sacrifice would be Margaret McNeil Ballard, Henry’s wife. She crossed the plains as a young eleven‑year‑old girl. In her own words she described one of many experiences:
“The company we were assigned to had gone on ahead and as my mother was anxious for me to go with them she strapped my little brother James on my back with a shawl. He was only four years old and . . . quite sick with the measles; but I took him since my mother had all she could do to care for the other children. I hurried and caught up with the company, traveling with them all day. That night a kind lady helped me take my brother off my back. I sat up and held him on my lap with the shawl wrapped around him, alone, all night. He was a little better in the morning. The people in the camp were very good to us and gave us a little fried bacon and some bread for breakfast.
“We traveled this way for about a week, before my brother and I were united with our family again” (quoted by M. Russell Ballard, in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 106; or Ensign, May 1992, 75).
Henry served faithfully as bishop of the Logan Second Ward for just a few months under forty years. His devoted wife Margaret served as Relief Society president for thirty years. A few days ago I traveled along the pioneer trail and found myself wondering how my faithful great‑grandparents ever survived and how it was possible for them to do what they did. Surely they came to know God and his Holy Son on that trail as they willingly gave all that they had to serve them.
Church Sesquicentennial Celebration
In 1997 the Church will celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the arrival of the first Latter‑day Saints in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. “Faith in Every Footstep” will be the theme under which the various activities of the celebration will take place. The faith of those early pioneers and the sacrifices they were willing to make for their faith left an enduring legacy that still blesses the Church today. The spirit of that legacy was captured in a poem by Vilate Raile:
They cut desire into short lengths And fed it to the hungry fires of courage. Long after, when the flames had died, Molten gold gleamed in the ashes. They gathered it into bruised palms And handed it to their children And their children’s children forever.
(In T. Edgar Lyon, “Some Uncommon Aspects of the Mormon Migration,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1969, 33.)
The Church Educational System will participate in the celebration by providing a packet of materials, also called Faith in Every Footstep, to help students throughout the world celebrate the spirit of faith, sacrifice, and pioneering demonstrated by our forefathers. There will be a presentation in this symposium designed to help you more effectively use these materials and prepare for this celebration.
The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have also commissioned the publication of a short history of the Church that is titled Our Heritage: The Coming Forth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‑day Saints. This volume emphasizes the commitment, dedication, and sacrifice of Church members all over the world. It would be appropriate if every seminary and institute student read this inspired material as part of their study program for 1997.
How to Sacrifice Today
Brothers and sisters, our commitment to the kingdom should match that of our faithful ancestors even though our sacrifices are different. Today in the Church there are many examples of sacrifice that may help us understand that sacrifice for the gospel is not over and that coming unto Christ requires as much commitment and devotion today as it ever has.
Not long ago I was assigned to preside over a regional conference in La Paz, Bolivia. Members came to the conference from small towns and villages scattered throughout the area of La Paz and the Altiplano. Great sacrifice and commitment were required of some of these members to attend the meetings. Prior to the priesthood leadership training session, I stood in front of the stake center and greeted the brethren as they gathered. I greeted one older brother who told me that he lived a long way from La Paz. I noticed that his shirt was a different color from the middle of his chest down. The upper portion of his shirt was white, while the lower portion was a brownish‑red color.
I learned that he and three of his companions, all Melchizedek Priesthood holders, had taken many hours to travel to the meeting. They had walked most of the way and had to ford two rivers where the brownish‑red water came up to their chests. They had flagged down a truck and stood in the back of it for the last two hours of their journey to the stake center.
These faithful men said to me: “Elder Ballard, you are one of the Lord’s Apostles. My brethren and I would do whatever was required to be taught by you.” Imagine how humble that made me feel. Brothers and sisters, do we have a similar attitude when we are asked to attend leadership meetings in wards, stakes, or professional Church employment?
The Blessings of Sacrifice
We sing, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven” (Hymns, 27). This is a true principle. Let me illustrate:
Some time ago I reported this in general conference, but feel to repeat this experience tonight since it is a personal testimony of the sacrifices of today. I was named bishop of the Holladay Twelfth Ward in 1958. In those days, local members paid 50 percent of the cost of constructing a building. One of the most important leadership experiences in my life came several weeks before the announced dedication of the building. Our ward of young families, who were struggling to make ends meet, needed to raise the final $30,000 in order to pay for our share of the cost. I fasted and prayed to know what I should say to our ward members regarding this obligation. We already had pressed them very hard, and they had willingly contributed money and personal labor beyond anything I believed possible, but still we needed to raise the last $30,000.
As the brethren gathered for priesthood meeting, I was impressed to read to them the testimony my Grandfather Ballard bore when he was ordained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on 7 January 1919. I quote a small portion of his testimony: “Two years ago, about this time, I had been on the Fort Peck Reservation for several days with the brethren, solving the problems connected with our work among the Lamanites. Many questions arose that we had to settle. There was no precedent for us to follow, and we just had to go to the Lord and tell Him our troubles, and get inspiration and help from Him. On this occasion I had sought the Lord, under such circumstances, and that night I received a wonderful manifestation and impression which has never left me. I was carried to this place—into this room. I saw myself here with you. I was told there was another privilege that was to be mine; and I was led into a room where I was informed I was to meet someone. As I entered the room I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious being I have ever conceived of, and was taken forward to be introduced to Him. As I approached He smiled, called my name, and stretched out His hands towards me. If I live to be a million years old I shall never forget that smile. He put His arms around me and kissed me, as He took me into His bosom, and He blessed me until my whole being was thrilled. As He finished I fell at His feet, and there saw the marks of the nails; and as I kissed them, with deep joy swelling through my whole being, I felt that I was in heaven indeed. The feeling that came to my heart then was: Oh! If I could live worthy . . . so that in the end when I have finished I could go into His presence and receive the feeling that I then had in His presence, I would give everything that I am and ever hope to be!” (Melvin R. Ballard, Melvin J. Ballard: Crusader for Righteousness [1966], 65–66).
At the conclusion of this testimony, the Spirit of the Lord touched our hearts. Very little else was said because this small group of faithful brethren in the priesthood meeting also knew in their own way that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He is our Savior and Redeemer. We all knew that with greater faith in Him we could reach our goal. During that same day, family after family came to my office with money, making personal sacrifices that were far beyond what I, the bishop, would ever have asked of them. By eight o’clock Sunday evening, the ward clerk had written receipts for a little more than $30,000.
Sacrifice truly brought forth the blessings of heaven to the members of our ward. Never have I lived among a people who were more united, more caring, more concerned for one another than these ward members were. In the midst of our greatest sacrifice, we became bonded together in the true spirit of the gospel of love and service.
Now brothers and sisters, today the budget allowance procedures have lifted much of the financial sacrifice. Yet sacrifice is still necessary if we are to develop faith strong enough to lay hold on eternal life. I believe we should increase our spiritual devotion and service to the Lord and others in order to demonstrate to the Lord our love for him and our Heavenly Father.
Sacrifice in the Church Educational System
The Church Educational System provides a wonderful opportunity to keep sacred temple covenants that relate to the law of sacrifice. The work of this marvelous educational system is founded on the unselfish sacrifice not only of the earliest pioneers, but upon those offerings of the valiant souls who sit among us today.
Many of you who teach early‑morning seminary make great sacrifices of getting up early—sometimes 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. every weekday to go to class. This, of course, results in sacrifice by you and often your family as well. You also sacrifice by taking time out of an already busy schedule to prepare lessons for sometimes sleepy and seemingly disinterested students; but you are blessed as Nephi of old because you do not murmur as you perform this important service (see 1 Nephi 3:6).
I am told of a handful of early‑morning teachers who have now passed the thirty-year mark of faithful volunteer teaching. Such unselfish dedication is remarkable and deeply appreciated.
Some of you who are home-study seminary teachers must travel great distances to get to your classes. Others of you teach in a setting that may not be conducive to teaching the gospel, but you faithfully fulfill your duty.
Maybe the greatest sacrifice you full‑time seminary teachers make is the constancy of being there in the classroom with your students day after day and year after year, having a fresh, positive attitude every class period, even on days when things don’t go well. There is personal sacrifice and commitment to improve your understanding of the gospel and improve in your teaching abilities when no promotions and only a teacher’s modest income exist for those who go the extra mile.
You who are coordinators sacrifice great amounts of your time in your job. You are up early with the early‑morning classes and frequently home late from the home‑study class or night institute class and even have many weekends with Saturday activities and Sunday meetings to encourage priesthood leaders toward recruitment and enrollment. You sacrifice personal and valuable family time.
Many of you work out in the mission field, alone for weeks without contact from other CES associates. You sacrifice the friendship, camaraderie, lesson suggestions, and ideas of the big seminary or institute faculty.
Your leaders, too, have given and continue to give long hours of dedicated service.
There is a grand corps of 244 Church service missionaries with CES assignments. They currently serve in thirty‑three countries of the South Pacific, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada. Many of these missionaries come from the ranks of retired CES personnel.
God recognizes and accepts these and all other similar offerings. To each of you who willingly sacrifice so much, we say thank you and God bless you.
May I offer a word of caution. The blessings and benefits that have come to CES in recent years have been monumental. With so many blessings there will be a need to carefully guard against ingratitude. The Lord said:
“Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. . . .
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things” (D&C 59:7, 21).
The spirit of the law of sacrifice promotes gratitude. In many ways we have gone through a period of great prosperity that may, when history is written, prove to be as devastating to our souls as the effects of the physical persecutions were upon the bodies of our pioneer ancestors.
President Harold B. Lee said, “Today we are being tested and tried by another kind of test that I might call the ‘test of gold’—the test of plenty, affluence, [and] ease” (Sweet Are the Uses of Adversity . . . , Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [7 Feb. 1962], 3).
President Brigham Young warned: “Poverty, persecution and oppression we have endured; many of us have suffered the loss of all things in a worldly point of view. Give us prosperity and see if we would bear it, and be willing to serve God. See if we would be as willing to sacrifice millions as we were to sacrifice what we had when in comparative poverty” (Journal of Discourses, 13:264).
We would do well to remember the “prosperity cycle” found in the Book of Mormon. Let us not forget the Lord in our day of prosperity. Let us maintain the spirit of the law of sacrifice and always thank the Lord for what we have, even if what we have is not as much as some. This may prove to be one of our greatest tests in life.
The Challenge to Sacrifice
Today we are not called to pull handcarts through the snow‑swept plains of Wyoming. What we are asked to sacrifice may be different, but it may be just as difficult. Listen to the language of the scriptures as they describe the level of sacrifice the Lord requires of us: “Offer your whole souls as an offering unto [God]” (Omni 1:26; see also Mosiah 2:24). “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1). The Lord himself said that we should keep our “covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command” (D&C 97:8). The sacrifice the Lord asks of us is to wholly rid ourselves of the “natural man” and all the ungodliness associated with it. When we completely surrender ourselves to the Lord, then he will cause a mighty change in us and we will become a new person, justified, sanctified, and born again with his image in our countenances (see Mosiah 5:2; Alma 5:14; Moses 6:59–60).
As in all things, our Lord and Savior manifested the supreme example of sacrifice. His life and ministry established a pattern for us to follow. His divine mission was culminated in a supreme act of love as he gave his life for our redemption. Through his personal sacrifice, he provided a way for us to have our sins forgiven and return to the presence of our Father.
Brothers and sisters, may the Lord bless each of you who work in the most important cause of Church education. May your love for the Lord increase as you continue to willingly serve him and teach his gospel to others. May the blessings that come from quiet sacrifice serve to strengthen your testimony and devotion to God.
I thank you on behalf of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for your faithful service.
Testimony and Blessing
I would close with this last thought. If I have a fear, the fear I have is that the principle of sacrifice may be slipping away from us. I’ve chosen to talk on this subject to you, the teachers of the youth. The principle of sacrifice is a law of God. We are obliged to understand it and to teach it and to practice it. If it becomes too easy to be a member of this Church, testimonies will become shallow, the roots of testimony will not go down into the soil like they did with our pioneer forefathers. May God grant you an understanding of the law of sacrifice and that it is with us today. It is vitally important that we understand it, teach it, and live it.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I would invoke a blessing upon you, my fellow workers, that the peace of the Lord will be yours, that as you work with the youth you will realize that in your hands you are molding the future leadership of the Church. Which one of you knows which one of those young men sitting in your class today may be sitting in the red chairs tomorrow? Which one of you knows who among those sweet young women that are your students will be taking their place in the leadership of the women’s organizations of the Church?
May God grant you the blessing of being able to look at each student as a son or daughter of God, a precious, precious stewardship. And may you have the strength, the energy, the courage, and the Spirit of the Lord to guide you in your preparation and to bless you in your presentation that students will feel, I say that again, that students will feel the power of the message of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God. I witness and testify to you, my beloved brothers and sisters, that he lives, this is his Church, he presides over it, he loves us, and will guide us if we surrender, give up our sins and our ungodliness and completely trust in him. I would ask our Father to bless you that you can do this more effectively in the future than you’ve been able to do it in the past.
May your families be watched over and cared for; some of you are away from them. I would ask our Father to watch over them and cradle them in his care while you are here learning to be more effective in your sacred calling. This blessing, my testimony, and my love to each one of you I leave very gratefully and humbly, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.