Saturday, July 16, 2016

What Are Your Sacred Cows?

by Nicky Smith

Necessity for sacrifice
If we want to become like Jesus, we need to develop faith. In order to develop faith, God will ask us to sacrifice. Faith and sacrifice are opposite sides of the same coin. Without faith, it is difficult to sacrifice. Without sacrifice, your faith cannot increase. Joseph Smith said,
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; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. (Lectures on Faith 6:7)
Faith necessary unto life and salvation is the type of faith where we are confident in the presence of God. Here he is declaring that such faith can only be developed when one is willing to sacrifice all earthly things. When you are willing to sacrifice everything for God, then you can feel confident before him.

Many of us think we are willing to sacrifice EVERY thing for the Lord. However, I think it is necessary to examine ourselves from time to time because most of us have a sacred cow or two....or three. 

Sacred cows
In Hinduism cows are considered sacred. A sacred cow is an idiomatic expression for a belief that is held onto very strongly, even though it is not a correct principle and has no basis or solid foundation. It is immune to questioning and criticism and so it is difficult to eradicate (and often difficult to identify). 

Many of us have false traditions or beliefs which we vehemently cling to, but if we want to progress we have to rid ourselves of these things and seek only for those things that are true. Anytime we adhere to a false principle, it leads to us not being willing to sacrifice something. This means we damn ourselves, being unwilling to progress because we prefer to hold onto our sacred cow.

Let's consider an example. Let's say you live in Ohio and you love it there. You weren't told by the Lord to live there, but you have a strong belief that that is where you're meant to be. The reasons are various. Your parents are older and you don't want to leave them. In fact, you don't believe God would ever ask you to leave them. You enjoy the climate and the safety of your town. You have a calling in your ward which you believe is inspired. And so on. Now, what if God asked you to leave and move to Alaska or another country? Would you be open to that? Would you be willing to make that sacrifice? Or have you already said in your mind that God would never ask you to do this (for whatever reason)? In this case, you're likely holding tightly to a sacred cow that you are meant to be there, but it is not based on truth and revelation. And so you close yourself to truth and to God asking you to sacrifice. 

Anytime we possess a sacred cow, we don't believe that God would ask us to go against that thing. Joseph Smith called it setting up stakes for God. As a result, we come short of the blessings he has in store for us.

Here are some quotes by Joseph on the matter:
"I say to all those who are disposed to set up stakes for the Almighty, you will come short of the glory of God. It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty." (DHC 5:529)
We cannot become as God if we set up stakes (or possess sacred cows). The natural man does this and we need to overcome that.
To all those who are disposed to say to set up stakes for the almighty— will come short of the glory of god. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son he must put away all his traditions. (History of the Church, 5:554)
Again, we cannot become like God if we set up stakes for him. We need to identify all false traditions and beliefs if we are to become an heir with Christ. 
Men will set up stakes and say thus far will we go and no farther, did Abraham when called upon to offer his son, did the Saviour, no, view him fulfilling all righteousness again on the banks of Jordon, also on the Mount transfigured before Peter and John there receiving the fulness of priesthood or the law of God, setting up no stake but coming right up to the mark in all things here him after he returned from the Mount, did ever language of such magnitude fall from the lips of any man, hearken him. (The Words of Joseph Smith, p.243-248)
Abraham, Christ, Peter and John are examples of men who did not have sacred cows. 

Now, think of people in the scriptures and the things God asked them to do. Many were asked to do ridiculously hard things. Lehi was told to move into the desert with his family. Isaiah was told to walk around naked for three years. Hosea was told to marry a prostitute. Abraham was told to sacrifice his son. There are so many examples like these. When Nephi was asked to kill Laban he really didn't want to do it. Nephi said in his heart: "Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him" (1 Nephi 4:10). He could have said, "There is no way God would ever ask me to do this. This must not be from him." He would then have ignored the command and done things his way. Instead, he knew that God could give him any commandment and even though this was a sacrifice for him, he was willing to do it.

Although there were many people who had no apparent sacred cows, there were some who did. For example, the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. After Jesus said to keep the commandments and he said he had always done that, Jesus told him to sell everything and give it to the poor and follow Jesus. But, for this young man, his possessions were his sacred cow he was unwilling to sacrifice (see Mark 10:17-27). He couldn't progress further as a result. The Pharisees were a great example too of people possessing sacred cows. Their oral law was untouchable. It was beyond questioning. Those who questioned it were seen as heretics. As a result, they were never able to see their law for what it was: commandments of God mixed with commandments of men. They then weren't able to abandon the false aspects of the law in order only to cling to truth.

If a sacred cow is a strong belief in something false, you can imagine that one cannot list all possible sacred cows. But, let's just list a few examples and you can think of others: Modern feminism, the idea that a knowledge of church history is irrelevant to one's salvation, false beliefs about the purpose of the temple and ordinances, the idea that a temple sealing automatically seals a couple together forever, the notion that people who look or dress differently are less righteous, the belief that church leaders are infallible, the idea that all church callings are inspired, thinking that simply trying to be good is sufficient for exaltation, the idea that the Lord will never ask you to turn down a calling or skip church, false beliefs about the nature of Christ, the idea that man (instead of God) gives men the power of the priesthood, the belief that an office in the priesthood automatically gives men power, thinking that a man can give you the Holy Ghost, and so on.

Letting go of sacred cows
If we really want to progress, we need to rid ourselves of all our sacred cows. Sacred cows are based on false traditions or beliefs. If we were continually to search for truth, seeking to learn more about the things we currently believe, we will begin to understand what is false among the things we believe. It is essential for us to examine all our beliefs and determine which are founded on the word of God and which are not. 

Another thing we can do is determine that we will never set up stakes for God and that we would do whatever he asked, even if it went against what we believe to be right. For example, if God asked you not to go to church but instead help your neighbor, would you consider it? Or is going to church more important than that?

These sacred cows are very hard to detect. In fact, a majority of the time we are completely unaware they exist because we have accepted these things as truth. Otherwise, these beliefs would not be sacred cows. They are so pervasive that they influence our actions and we don't even realize it. And, when we encounter anything that threatens our sacred cows, we automatically explain it away. We do an excellent job in coming up with reasons why our beliefs in them are valid. One way to determine if we have any sacred cows is to consider if there are things we do not believe God would reveal to us or ask us to do. It takes humility to ask God to reveal them to you and then to accept what he tells us.

Each of us have sacred cows which stop our progression towards becoming like Christ. If we are open, God will reveal them to us. A few years ago I asked the Lord to show me my unbelief (or sacred cows) and over time I have been shown these things. Because I was clinging to them so strongly, it was difficult to be open to considering that these things might not consist of truth. Coming to a realization of the truth is mostly painful and uncomfortable, but it is the only way to progress. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this has been my journey as well. I never called it "sacred Cows" but said, "Lord if I have false paridymns and traditions that I am clinging to that needed to be changed and severed please make them known" same things as you have written above.

    Thank you for this post. :)


Comment Policy: Add some light and love to the conversation!