Category: Lifelong Learning
Emphasis added where I intonate on ideas.
My wife did half the preparation of this talk. I have been working 70 to 80 hour weeks for the last three months. My wife and kids have been with her family for the last two months and possibly up to three more while I focus on starting a company we believe can eventually become successful after a long time of hard work. We believe that this will help us achieve what we believe God wants us to do in this life. And so I have been thinking a lot about the topic of sacrifice.
Our world has become hostile to the concept of sacrifice. We don’t have to sacrifice one thing that we want for the other because we can simply spend for it on credit; a mother who chooses to stay home to raise her children in truth and righteousness is perceived by the world to be backward or even dumb. Even if we are able to work, we do not have to and can still live off the work of others. Instead of learning in knowledge and wisdom during a time with easier access to the best books, we can spend our days with an all-you-can-eat buffet of mediocrity online from our smart phones until our thoughts are menial and our lives without meaning. A married couple is not willing to sacrifice for each other’s happiness and are told to split up because it’s just easier… there are several examples of this kind of behavior that surround us today. Why is it important to still learn to make sacrifices even today, and every day? Because making the right kinds of sacrifices leads to greater good, and that’s how our world moves forward, and that’s also how the kingdom of God moves forward on this earth - not by giving up, but by giving yourself up.
The word sacrifice has two Latin roots: “sacre”, meaning “holy”, and “facere”, meaning “to make.” So the word “sacrifice” means to make something holy, or to sanctify. As to my interpretation, to sacrifice is to sanctify our humanly, earthly, imperfect, clumsy efforts, through God, to achieve a higher purpose or a greater good. Since the days of Adam and Eve, God has taught His people to make sacrifices, and He has done so throughout the ages. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the first laws to be given instructions on in the holy temples. For God’s people, even though sacrifices take different forms at different times, the purposes of it has always been the same: one, figuratively speaking, that God wants us to show Him that the tents of our hearts are still open and facing Him (instead of being like Lot’s tent, facing Sodom and Gamorra); and two, that we want God to accept our efforts and to let us know that He is pleased with them. It is only through righteous sacrifice, that we can shorten the gap between God and us. And as we make righteous sacrifices consistently, we find ourselves progressing on the path to eternal life.
God has missions for all of us in our lives that are unique to our circumstances and our abilities. He expects us to discover what those are with His help, to keep them sacred, and to rely on His help to achieve them. Are we committed to our missions in life? Are we making sacrifices and doing everything we can to achieve them? You will receive these answers in your own prayers. There are some things we all know, however. Our spirits waited a period of time longer than we can understand to come to this earth for our mortal experience to prove to God of our faith in His work. If we are spending hours every day on Facebook, Instagram, television, and video games, we are not truly committed to the missions God has planned for us. In the April 2017 general conference, President Nelson said “When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do.” If we are doing everything we can to learn what God wants us to accomplish this life and are doing everything we can to do so, we will have richer and more fulfilling experiences that we can possibly imagine.
But to be willing to make the necessary sacrifices, we have to have the right kind of faith in God. The prophet Joseph Smith taught that “faith could not center in a being of whose existence we had no idea” and that for “any rational and intelligent being to exercise faith in God unto life and salvation, he needs to first understand God’s character and attributes.” (This is why in Doctrine and Covenants 131:6 it says “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” And the scriptures tell us to feast upon the words of Christ. Thank you to our new Seminary teacher, Beatriz.) Joseph Smith continues in the Lectures on Faith that God is “omnipotent, everlasting, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness, he is without variation, a God of truth, is no respecter of persons, and He is love.”
To me, one of the most compelling descriptions of God’s profoundly loving nature is in the Pearl of Great Price. When the heavens opened to Enoch’s view, he was having a grand vision of mankind. But then he turned his gaze and saw Heavenly Father weeping, and that completely shocked this prophet of God because he knew that God is perfectly just, merciful, kind, and full of peace, and that He is the God of the perfect plan! So Enoch asked, “How is it that thou canst weep?” Then God, through His mourning eyes, told Enoch that these people on the earth are my own kindred, I made them with my own hands, and I gave them the commandments to choose me and to love their brethren, but they didn’t! They chose to disobey, and now they are suffering greatly. And I am weeping because of their sufferings.
This perfect love and compassion from a perfect God that offers us the perfect plan, is what makes me want to make righteous sacrifices to allow His will to take over my own, to strive to follow His teachings and His path to eternal life. And so was the case for the countless pioneers who went before us to forge the paths, both physically and spiritually, under enormous uncertainties and against the adversary’s ceaseless attacks.
President Eyring in his April 2014 general conference talk, A Priceless Heritage of Hope, talked about the story of his German great-grandfather Henrich Eyring. It just so happens that my grandmother also shares the same great grandfather, and my mother had written a family pioneer book, which includes excerpts from Henrich Eyring’s autobiography and some other details from his life that I would like to share with you, as an example of some of the sacrifices that our LDS pioneers had made. And as I share these stories, maybe you could ask yourself, “what would I have done if I were in their shoes?”
Henrich Eyring was born in wealth and status in Coburg, Germany, and his family lived in a magnificent estate. However, his mother first passed away, then his heart-broken father, after a failed business venture, passed away as well. These unfortunate events caused Henrich to become an orphan at the age of 15 and also caused the Eyrings to lose all of the wealth they had accumulated through their family’s once very successful apothecary business. Then Henrich decided to immigrate to America with one of his sisters at the age of 18. In his autobiography, Henrich Eyring wrote, “The poverty through which I had to pass was a blessing in disguise, and an agent to prepare me for receiving the plan of salvation as revealed through the prophet Joseph Smith. Had my father continued his apothecary business, there is every probability that today I would be in Coburg in easy circumstances and unapproachable as far as the true faith is concerned.” Henrich was subsequently baptized in St. Louis at the age of 20. Three months later, he was called to serve a mission to the Cherokee nation in Oklahoma. That mission call was extended without an end date. About four and a half years later, and Henrich served much of that time with chills and fever, he had a dream where he finished his mission and returned to Salt Lake City. So he and a companion went and joined a group of saints going west.
Here is the story of conversion and pioneer sacrifices made by Mary Bommeli, who later became Henrich’s wife:
Mary had been living with her family in Switzerland when Elder Miller, an LDS missionary from America, had knocked on their door and brought them the joyous message of the restored gospel. The Bommeli family gathered to listen, and the missionary left them with a Book of Mormon. Within the year, Hans Bommeli sold their house and prepared for his family to journey to America. Since money was scarce for the Bommelis and they were already supporting two sons on missions, Mary offered her savings to her Dad, Mom, and three younger sisters to gather with the Saints in Utah. As an expert weaver accustomed to hard work, Mary finally earned sufficient funds to pay her fare to America three years later. Alone for her trek from St. Louis to Utah, she grew close to a German orphan who recently returned finished his mission to the Cherokee Native Americans. They got to know each other very well on that long work and got married. God rewarded Mary and Henrich for their sacrifices by blessing them with each other.
Soon after Henrich and Mary were married, they were called to move to Saint George, UT, partly because the warmer weather in Southern Utah would help Henrich’s health. He was still battling the malaria he got on his mission. Later in Henrich Eyring’s life, he moved his family to Colonia Juarez in Chihuahua, Mexico. He learned and mastered the new language, and became a very successful and respectable man among the communities there. Now we look at Henrich Eyring’s life stories and say, “Wow, what great things he did for his family, community, and his posterity! Because of him, all of us can taste the joyous fruits of the gospel!” But we can say so because we have a reference point, we are looking back in history. These LDS pioneers did not know what was going to happen in the future, they only relied on their faith in God and in God’s plan, and they were willing to sacrifice accordingly. Likewise, you and I can do the same, we don’t have to know the big picture, we just have to trust in the big picture.
Lastly, the great and ultimate selfless sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, makes all our comparatively minuscule sacrifices on this earth meaningful. Today God does not ask us to physically forge an unknown path, however, He asks us to continuously offer up a broken heart and a contrite spirit as our own sacrifices to shorten the gap between us and Him. And it is by each one of us doing so, that we help move the work of Zion forward and to help build up the Kingdom of God on this earth. There is no humanitarian effort more meaningful or amount of money or fame that will bring us more happiness than sacrificing ourselves in the work of the Lord. Thank you to all of you making selfless sacrifices to fulfill your callings. You bless the lives of all of us more than you know.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.