Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Talk on Sacrifice

by Kimber Albrechtsen

Here's a talk I wrote. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to give it at church, but instead I will give it to the lovely congregation that is the internet.

I was asked to speak on the topic of sacrifice, specifically on a quote from President Benson stating, “We love what we sacrifice for and we sacrifice for what we love.”

This perfectly describes the work of our Savior, Jesus Christ. His great love for us was manifested in his sacrifice, as well as his perfect love for our Heavenly Father as he sacrificed to bring about God’s work in bringing about the immortality and eternal life of man, impossible without an atoning sacrifice. Even before Gethsemane, his entire life was sacrificed—or offered to God—in obedience, service to others, and preaching truth despite persecution and rejection.

Because the purpose of our lives here is to become like Jesus Christ, it makes sense that we have likewise been commanded to sacrifice.

Our first sacrifices are very easy to understand. We give 10% of our income, we sacrifice 3 hours each week to worship together, and we are also required to sacrifice our carnal selves, trusting that as we do so with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, Christ will enact a spiritual resurrection in each of us as we are reborn as a child of God, endowed with the gift of the Holy Ghost.

It is this connection to heaven, through the Holy Ghost, that allows us to receive more personalized revelation, and this revelation often includes directions to sacrifice. The sacrifices required of us will be more individualized, planned by a loving God whose only goal is to mold us into our best selves. What we are called upon to give up will refine us, test us, and force us to confront anything and everything that stands between us and God: earthly appetites, pride, wealth, reputation, power, well-laid plans—we must be willing to sacrifice anything that God asks in order to receive the faith and knowledge necessary to receive exaltation.

Joseph Smith said this about sacrifice: 

“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.” (Lectures on Faith, pp. 60.)

We must be willing to sacrifice all earthly things. Our possessions, our time, our social standing, our relationships, and anything the Lord asks.

Jesus said,

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)
When I was about ten years old, the movie Titanic had just come out, and the Celine Dion song My Heart Will Go On was extremely popular. I had been taking piano lessons for a few years by then, and I was eager to learn the song. I asked my mom to buy me the sheet music, and I took it to my piano teacher, excited for her to help me learn to play the best. song. ever.

When I asked her if she would teach me, she laughed in my face. My piano teacher was very serious about the piano; she was brilliant. She told me that she didn’t teach that kind of music. She was more concerned with my learning Baroque pieces, Mozart, and Beethoven. And of course endless scales. The music she wanted to teach me was technical, sophisticated, and foundational to more progression.

While I was disappointed that I would be playing Bach instead of impersonating Celine Dion, my teacher knew what her job was: to help me develop as a pianist. She knew which pieces would stretch me to my potential, and although they took a lot more sacrifice to learn, these songs were the ones truly worth my time and effort.

God is like my piano teacher. Our life is like a song. If we want our song to be an easy-to-enjoy pop song, then that is our prerogative. We can play that on our own. But if we are willing to play the song that God wants us to, by living a life rich with faith, obedience, repentance, humility, miracles, testimony, and qualification for eternal blessings---he will guide us through the sacrifices needed to help us reach the level of spiritual mastery required to live with Him in glory.

Sometimes, the reason for a sacrifice is not immediately clear. It is obvious why we might be called to serve a mission or give money to the poor, but we will often be asked to sacrifice things for reasons that are not yet apparent. These sacrifices require that we trust the Lord completely, having faith that His ways are higher than our ways. In Moses 5:6-7, we read about Adam, who had been offering sacrifices:

"6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

7 And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth."
Just as Adam’s obedient sacrifice was eventually rewarded with knowledge, all of our faithful sacrifices will likewise be met with greater knowledge, until we ultimately qualify for the most precious knowledge we can attain in this life: that we have secured exaltation.

Joseph Smith explained the concept this way,

“Those then who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled through faith to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith;” (Lectures on Faith 6, v.10).
Joseph Smith received such knowledge, as recorded in D&C 132:49-50:
"49 For I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father.
50 Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac."
The comparison to Abraham is important. Abraham is often used in the scriptures as an example of a man who has secured amazing eternal blessings. When anyone is likened or connected to Abraham in the scriptures, God is signifying that that person has likewise proved themselves unfailingly obedient. If we desire the same blessing as Abraham, we also have to display the same willingness to sacrifice.

Joseph Smith said,

"It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him" (Lectures on Faith, sixth lecture, v.8).
Have you qualified for eternal life? Ask God. If the answer is, “not yet,” then ask the Lord to tell you what you need to do. I promise you He will. He will probably ask you to sacrifice something—it starts with your sins, your pride, the things you waste time on, the vices you’re reluctant to give up. Then it will progress to your possessions, your reputation, other things you cherish, until finally you are asked to sacrifice something that might make no sense, something that will test you to your absolute limit. The question is whether you will obey and trust God, or not.

I pray I can sacrifice whatever God asks me to. I pray you can do the same.

I'll finish with the words of Christ, who said in D&C 97:8,

"8 Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice —yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me."

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