31 July 2012

Sacrifice

I gave a talk last Sunday in church and I wanted to share it here. At first I introduced myself and my family and then went straight into my talk:

Another thing about me is I love baseball. I’m not great at following stats but I really love going to and watching games. I’m a tried and true Padres fan no matter how terrible they are. I grew up going to games at Jack Murphy Stadium with my family and my dad would teach me about the game. In baseball there is a play called a sacrifice fly. It is where the batter sacrifices his chance to get on base so that another runner can have the chance to score. He is exchanging one good thing--getting on base--for something better that benefits the whole team. It took me a while to understand this principle as a child. That sometimes we need to give up something that we want for something much better.  Elder Uchtdorf in his famous Forget Me Not talk that he gave in last year’s Relief Society broadcast said, “An acceptable sacrifice is when we give up something good for something of far greater worth.”

Of course I’m not up here to talk baseball but I was asked to speak on sacrifice. Elder Uchtdorf remind us that “Giving up a little sleep to help a child who is having a nightmare is a good sacrifice. We all know this. Staying up all night, jeopardizing our own health, to make the perfect accessory for a daughter’s Sunday outfit may not be such a good sacrifice.  Dedicating some of our time to studying the scriptures or preparing to teach a lesson is a good sacrifice. Spending many hours stitching the title of the lesson into homemade pot holders for each member of your class perhaps may not be.  Every person and situation is different, and a good sacrifice in one instance might be a foolish sacrifice in another.” He poses the question, “How can we tell the difference for our own situation? We can ask ourselves, “Am I committing my time and energies to the things that matter most?” There are so many good things to do, but we can’t do all of them. Our Heavenly Father is most pleased when we sacrifice something good for something far greater with an eternal perspective. Sometimes, that may even mean nurturing small but beautiful forget-me-not flowers instead of a large garden of exotic blooms.”

In our lives there are many different kinds of sacrifices: time, money, service whether it be small like bringing someone dinner or big like serving a mission or being a parent, a broken heart & contrite spirit and of course the great and last sacrifice of the Savior’s atonement. The Israelites offered sacrifices of burnt offerings so that they would be reminded of the savior’s sacrifice that would happen in the future.

We haven’t been asked to sacrifice burnt offerings but we have been asked to give of our time and talents in service. This type of sacrifice can also help us remember our Savior’s atoning sacrifice. Paul says in Romans 12:1 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Paul is telling us that we don’t have to sacrifice our lives for the gospel but we can do good by using our time and resources to further the gospel. Elder Oaks echoes this sentiment by saying "This is a truth revealed in the Lectures on Faith, which teach 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 this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life.”  We have been asked to sacrifice. Some of us have even made covenants in the temple that we will be willing to sacrifice everything we have if asked. Joseph Smith is telling us that through this sacrifice we will be worthy to receive eternal life.

Another thing we have been asked to sacrifice is a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks says “That sacrifice, the atonement of Jesus Christ--is at the center of the plan of salvation. The incomprehensible suffering of Jesus Christ ended sacrifice by the shedding of blood, but it did not end the importance of sacrifice in the gospel plan. Our savior requires us to continue to offer sacrifices, but the sacrifices he now commands are that we offer for a sacrifice unto [him] a broken heart and a contrite spirit. He also commands each of us to love and serve one another--in effect, to offer a small imitation of his own sacrifice by making sacrifices of our own time and selfish priorities.”  When we have a contrite spirit and a broken heart so that we are receptive to the Lord’s commands then the atonement can work for us in our lives. 2 Ne 2:7 says of the savior “Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” So this personal sacrifice can--as the hymn states--”bring forth the blessings of heaven.” through the power of the atonement.

So in preparing this talk I asked myself “do I have a broken heart and a contrite spirit? Am I willing to be receptive to the Lord’s guidance and directions? I don’t think there’s an easy answer to these questions. I know there have been times in my life when I’ve been much more contrite than others. I hope I’m not the only one who experiences waves in the strength of their testimony. Sometimes it’s just stronger than other times. In fact just last week as I was sitting in sacrament meeting listening to the speakers talk about testimonies, I found myself examining my own. I loved what the speakers had to say and I thought about what I would say if I were asked to give a talk about testimonies. Looking inside me really gave  me an opportunity to focus on my personal worthiness and how I could be better. It was a good experience for me. I believe that I most of the time I do have a contrite spirit  because I want to be better. I know I’m not perfect but I can say that I have felt the power of the Lord’s sacrifice through the atonement in my life. I have felt its healing power, I have been given strength to keep going in some of my darkest days and most importantly I have felt the love of the savior.

I think one of the most tangible blessings of the sacrifice of the atonement is feeling the Savior’s love. We know he loved us because he was willing to bear the burden and give the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we can live again. The same goes for us. When we give of ourselves through our time and resources we show how much we love the people we serve. As parents we sacrifice our lives, our time, our money and more to raise our children every day. We may not see the blessings of this sacrifice right away and sometimes it seems like we never will, but through our daily sacrifices our children know that we love them. We not only serve in our families but we are asked to serve in the church in various callings. These opportunities of service give us chance to show love to those around us. Last year I was called to be in the nursery. Honestly I was really dreading that calling. First of all I was really nervous about it but I really didn’t think I would enjoy it. I want to say though that I grew to love those little people as I got to know them. I am so glad I had the opportunity to serve because I was really able to see a transformation in myself as I sacrificed my time.

So why do we sacrifice? Why do we give up so much of our time, our efforts and so much more for the gospel? Elaine S. Dalton said “We sacrifice because we believe.” The 13th Article of Faith says "We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things.” We have faith that the sacrifices we are asked to make will not be in vain. We have faith that the time, money, and energy that we sacrifice today will be for the greater good. I have faith that the sacrifices I am asked to make will help me attain eternal life which is of far greater worth than what I would ever give up here on this earth.
 
In closing I want to tell you a story. When I was 19 my family and another family from my hometown went on a trip to Yosemite. We backpacked through the valley and saw so many beautiful things. Yosemite has to be on my top 5 favorite places I’ve ever been. On our trip we hiked to the top of Half Dome. Now if you haven’t ever been to Yosemite Half Dome is just a rock. A sheer rock face and on the back it’s a bit more sloped. But it’s all rock. To get to the top 15 years ago (it may be different now) all there was was parallel cables to hold on to that were about 5 or 6 feet apart and planks of wood every 10 feet or so. Some places the planks had broken or fallen away so all you could do was hold on to the cable and pull yourself up hand over hand. Climbing Half Dome was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I was in pretty good shape back then too and it was still really hard. But I knew that the view from the top was going to be spectacular so I kept going hand over hand and one footstep at a time. I think sacrifice in our lives can kind of be like climbing Half Dome. It’s uphill, hard, and can be emotionally, mentally or even physically strenuous but when you get to the top and you can see for miles the mountains and valleys and waterfalls all the pain or exhaustion you felt just goes away. When you sacrifice it can be really hard, but when you get your reward, whether it is in this life or the next the vistas and the blessings are going to be spectacular. We really will realize that the things we gave up are no where near the blessings that we will receive for them.

I am so grateful for the sacrifice that my savior made for me so I can repent and return to live with him again. I know that the sacrifices I give in this life will show my savior that I love him and am willing to give up things now for something so much better in the next life.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Great job! And a good reminder for everyone!