The Law of Sacrifice
Elder M. Russell Ballard
of the Quorum of the Twelve
(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 , 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 , 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 , 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 , 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 , 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:
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.
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 , 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
(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 , 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.
The Law of Sacrifice in the Law of Moses
Emblem to be Offered
Purpose of the Offering
Method of Offering
|Sin Offering||Blemishless male ox, ewe lamb, male or female dove, pigeon, or goat, or about two liters of fine flour||To obtain forgiveness for man’s sinful, fallen nature-for who man is rather than for what he might have done-and to point one to Christ||As needed, on the Day of Atonement, and during feasts||Consumed by fire outside the camp or city and eaten by the priest|
|Trespass Offering||Male ram and lamb||Combined with repentance to obtain forgiveness for specific sins committed and to point one to Christ||As needed and during feasts||Part consumed by fire and part eaten by the priest|
*Although these were “obligatory” offerings, like all commandments, they were not imposed against a person’s will.
Emblem to be Offered
Purpose of the Offering
Method of Offering
(This was the kind of sacrifice Adam first offered.)
|Firstborn, blemishless male bull, ram, lamb, goat, turtledoves, or pigeons||To show the Lord the offerer was willing to surrender all things to him and to point one to Christ||Daily at morning and evening, at the Feasts of the Passover and Tabernacles, and on the Day of Atonement||Completely consumed on the altar|
|Peace Offering||Blemishless male or female ox, lamb, or goat||To establish peace with God, to reopen communication with him, to thank him, to renew vows or covenants with him, and to point one to Christ||Only as desired||One-third consumed on the altar, one-third eaten by the priest, one-third eaten by the offerer|
|Meat Offering||Flour, oil, and frankincense made into breadstuffs||To complement the peace offering meal for the priests and to point one to Christ||Made at the same time as a peace offering||Eaten by the priest|